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Your June Useful Community Plus
June 30, 2022
Easy to Complex Adds to Downtown
Visit us at the Useful Community Development Website.
Below is an easier to more difficult progression of steps you can take to energize your downtown this summer. Even the smallest towns can do some of these. And if your downtown is already the best in your state--that just means you need to change it up a little bit!
Here are some random examples from our team meeting in Denver. (If yours are better, be sure to share with our readers using the form on the economic development success stories page of our website.)
All of you have a utility box or three. Almost everyone has an artist, and if you're a tiny town and don't, turn the third graders loose on it.
Look how easy and cheap it would be to make and paint these chairs--or maybe they are tables--or maybe they are risers for musicians. Et cetera. And they're pretty even if no one is using them at the moment.
You can turn a vacant lot, odd patch of concrete, or awkward setback between buildings into a little gathering spot. Some artificial turf, planter boxes, picnic tables, and umbrellas from a big box store make an instant park. Just don't overdo the artificial turf bit, as we felt Denver did.
Music for the lunch crowd gathers people in a hurry, especially if it recurs on the same day of the week. If your space is set back from the main street, as this one is, you need those giant balloons to call attention to the performers. No one is in your small town at high noon? Well, how about summer evenings, especially on a Friday or Saturday night? Adapt to fit your particular businesses.
Now we see the full range of elements likely to be necessary to bring vitality to downtowns in medium and large cities. Yes, you'll need nice pavers, plenty of shade trees (more than you think), planters with flowers, banners, ornamental lighting, bicycle racks, and occupied first floor storefronts. What you don't need is cars. See below.
The free bus runs up and down the mall at very frequent intervals, providing a lift for a block or many blocks between the State Capitol area and the train station. Other vehicles are not allowed in these lanes, and the center area provides shade, tiny food shops, and every sort of pedestrian amenity you can imagine. Connecting bus routes from the regular transit system intersect with the mall too. This is a longer range solution, and one requiring considerable planning, but it proves that you don't have to have car traffic to have thriving businesses.
This month we did a complete rewrite of the community development ideas page, providing 21 new ideas that could spark your finding the right twist on an idea for your own community. (The old ones live on in our archives, so if you were counting on them always being there, send us a reply so we can get them to you.)
Also we answered questions about:
Converting a storefront to a church
Rural code enforcement inconsistent
Whether a developer's unfinished work can be used as an argument against the next phase.
Feel free to reply with comments. But if you are asking a question you would like answered, use the public-facing community development questions page on the website. We'll be back soon on a Thursday in July.
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